The Herald of Everett, Washington
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Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012

  • Mark and Annie Mulligan / The Herald

Voices of the mill: Steve Purnell, 57, of Mount Vernon

Boiler Operator, 27 years

In this series, we're telling the stories of what the Kimberly-Clark mill closure means for workers and for Everett, which has been defined by mills for more than a century.
When Scott Paper Co. started in Everett in the 1950s, it owned thousands of acres of timberlands. That way it could control the process of making paper products from start to finish.
Steve Purnell started his career in Granite Falls in 1979 at some of those timberlands, preparing land before or after logging.
He liked the work so much he thought he'd go into forestry. Instead, the company shut down its timberland work. He ended up working at the mill, his first job there watching roll after roll fly by.
Later he moved into the utilities department, where he helped make power: first by bulldozing fuel into boilers, and later by operating a boiler.
“It's been a good job,” he said. “It's a good source of income. It's a shame to see it go.”
Now, he's trying to figure out what to do next. He's applying for boiler jobs around the country — there's not much call for running huge boilers in the Northwest.
He's still employed until mid-April.
The closure of the mill signals something to Purnell — and it's not good.
“I think it's just sad,” he said. “It's what made the U.S. great and now they are destroying what made them great. How can you not reinvest in the America that made you great? How can you not do that? It seems irresponsible.”

The Last Smokestack: Go to the main series page

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